[MMA] Fedor Emelianenko Signs with M-1 Global, Press Conference

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The latest entry into the crowded world of mixed martial arts promotion had its official launch this afternoon, but plans on a different twist.

Sibling Sports, LLC, formed theatrical company Sibling Entertainment Group Holdings, Inc., announced on Monday the signing of a two-year contract with Fedor Emelianenko, the consensus top heavyweight in the world and No. 1 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the Yahoo! sports rankings.

In addition, Monte Cox, the longtime promoter of Extreme Challenge, an Iowa-based regional promotion and agent for many of the sport?s big names, was named President and CEO of the group. Bob Clark, the president of Sibling Theatrical, will be the Chief Operating Officer. Cox said Monday that while the parent is a public company, the fight promotion, which will use the name M-1 Global, will be a private company.

M-1 Global comes from the Russian based M-1 promotion headed by Vadim Finkelchtein, Emelianenko?s business manager, that has run shows for years in that country. Russian President Vladimir Putin attended Emelianenko?s April 14 win in St. Petersburg, Russia over Matt Lindland.

Mitchell Maxwell, 54, the chairman of the board and CEO of Sibling, said at the press conference that he was the leading shareholder in the new company. He noted this was all put together over the past 10 weeks when he had a meeting with management of Emelianenko, who were unhappy with how negotiations were going with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

While the press conference was filled with somewhat negative remarks about UFC, how it allegedly treats fighters and trying to portray them as not being an international organization, Cox himself said the goal is not to compete with UFC.

Cox said the reality is UFC is the powerhouse of the industry. He said their group is currently planning on running six events around the world in 2008, with a first show in February headlined by Emelianenko. He talked of three major events headlined by Emelianenko, two in the U.S. and a summer event in Tokyo.

Three other shows, at least two of which would be held outside the U.S., would be smaller in scope. Emelianenko?s first opponent wasn?t named. Cox talked of having to make a television deal for live coverage prior to finalizing the date and time of the first event.

?Absolutely, Showtime, HBO, HD-Net (the station owned by Mark Cuban which airs MMA shows on Friday nights), we?re looking at broadcast partners to televise live,? he said.

Cox said the eventual goal was to do pay-per-view, but not until they have established Emelianenko?s name in the U.S. If the much-talked about Emelianenko vs. UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture fight can legally take place, it would be an obvious choice for the company?s first pay-per-view event.

At the press conference, company representatives claimed they would offer Couture $1 million more than he currently makes per fight in UFC for what would be the dream fight against Emelianenko. They also said they would add a $1 million bonus to the winner.

UFC attempted to put the same fight together for Super Bowl weekend. While such a fight would be the strongest drawing non-UFC fight in the history of American. MMA, without a strong television platform to build the fight, offering those kind of numbers to fighters would at best be a major loss leader to helped build a brand name.

As great as Emelianenko is, his April 14 pay-per-view fight with Matt Lindland, promoted by the Bodog Fight organization, only drew 13,000 buys, and Bodog hasn?t done a PPV show since.

Where M-1 Global is different from the multitude of attempted bridesmaid promotions that all but the most ardent fan wouldn?t be able to keep straight, is they don?t want to sign a huge roster of fighters. They want to work with all companies and exchange talent. Cox said they would offer their own talent to other promotions, with a specific mention they would offer Emelianenko to UFC. Cox said they were looking at signing a half dozen or so top names, and augment their events with big names from other promotions.

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